Rigolet woman recalls the tragic day her little brother was killed by a drunk driver

Shelly Wolfrey, with daughters Sierra (foreground) and Brianna, light a memorial candle in remembrance of Shelly’s brother, Shane, who was killed in Rigolet in 1996 by an impaired driver on snowmobile.

It was just before Christmas in 1996 when the world came crashing down for the Wolfrey family in Rigolet.

Shelly Wolfrey — just 15 at the time — her parents and sister, were told the devastating news that her little brother, Shane, 11, had been struck and killed by a snowmobile.

The driver was drunk.

“He was just out around, playing with his friends,” recalled Wolfrey, who attended the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) vigil at the Salvation Army church on Oct. 10.

“The driver was sentenced to a very short jail term and ended up serving next to nothing — I remember someone saying that had he (poached) a moose, he would have gotten a stiffer sentence.”

Wolfrey noted the sentence structure has changed since her brother was killed in 1996, with stiffer jail times for the offence.

She feels MADD’s annual vigils are very important in keeping the memories of those killed by impaired drivers alive, while raising awareness of the ongoing problem.

“It was many years before I could even talk about my brother,” she said.

“Bu after I had kids, I started to talk about Shane more, to let them know they had an uncle and to keep his memory alive for them.”

‘Uphill battle’

Shaun Crann is the president of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay chapter of MADD.

As the director of Fillitre’s Funeral Home, he has seen first-hand the tragedies of impaired driving and the cost to families, saying he ‘sees the carnage of it all.’

“I don’t think any parent should have to come to me and pick out a casket for their child because a drunk driver was behind a wheel,” said Crann.

Crann noted he became involved with the local MADD chapter in the hopes of making a difference, but admits it’s an ‘uphill battle.’

“In the past few months, between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush courts, there are 20 impaired charges on the court dockets,” he said.

“In St. John’s, in the last week or so, there were 14 impaired drivers on the court docket. The message still doesn’t seem to be getting through.”

Alternately, noted Crann, the fact there are charges on the dockets is positive in just one way: public awareness and growing intolerance of drunk driving.

“Back in my parents day, and even back in my earlier years growing up — drinking and driving was socially acceptable; no one gave a second thought.

“But seeing these charges on the court dockets means that the public is more in tune with this problem, and they are taking it upon themselves to report impaired drivers. This includes those on the ‘front-lines’ — such as gas station attendants, convenience store clerks, etc — who see the people that are buying alcohol or driving while impaired.”

‘Let police do their job’

Kathy Grabe of Happy Valley-Goose Bay was injured by a drunk driver five years ago.

After a night out with friends, they were standing in front of the local taxi stand, when a truck came careening around the corner of Hamilton River Road and Kelland Drive.

Grabe said she remembers nothing of what happened next.

“My friends told me that the truck came around the corner and struck me,” said Grabe, whose most serious injury turned out to be a broken ankle, in addition to some cuts and bruises.

“I consider myself one of the lucky ones — it could have been much worse.”

Grabe said the one thing she does remember from the experience was thinking, ‘I have to get home to see my son.’

“The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital,” she noted.

Grabe said she tries to attend the vigil as often as she can to remember the victims and raise awareness.

She did note, however, with the advent of social media, people are taking to ‘warning’ others when police are on patrol, and even describe the unmarked vehicles of both RCMP and Military Police.

“Impaired driving is not going to stop,” said Grabe. “I see people on Facebook, warning each other where the cops are, and the cars they are using.

“Why don’t people leave this alone and let the police get the impaired drivers off the roads?”

Grabe also noted she has warned her friends many times that is she knows or suspects they are drinking and driving, she would report them.

“They’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re a rat!’ But I say, ‘Look what happened to me!’”

‘Burying a friend’

After a moving video of a four-year old boy who was killed by a drunk driver — Tyler Lee Evans of West Virginia — Colleen Whitehorne listed the names of those in Labrador who had been killed or injured by impaired driving, and candles were lit by family members or others in their memory.

Lt. Brent Haas of the Salvation Army said this is the first year he has attended a MADD candlelight vigil. However, he, too, has been touched by the tragedy of impaired driving in the past.

“In July of 2009, my wife and I were stationed in Dawson Creek, BC,” recalled Lt. Haas. “We were brand new out of (the Salvation Army) training college.

“We received a call from Tumbler Ridge, BC, asking us to break the news to a family that their 21-year old son had been killed by a drunk driver. I, myself, was 21 years old at the time.”

Lt. Haas said he remembers walking into the family’s home, where the mother, father and brother were sitting in the living room.

“I asked the mother, ‘Was your son, Sheldon, a hairdresser in Baie Verte, NL?’,” said Lt. Haas.

“The mother looked at me in surprise and asked how I knew her son’s name. She then said he lived with an aunt in Baie Verte for a year. I said, ‘He cut my hair for a full year when I was there.’

“So now, here I was, on the opposite end of the country, and brought together in this tragedy. And I would no longer be burying a stranger, I would be burying a friend.”

Lt. Haas asked those attending the vigil — and the general public — to support those affected by drunk driving and to advocate for MADD and what is stands for.

“May God bless the families that have been affected by drunk driving,” he said.

Source: The Labradorian


Last updated on: 2013-10-14 | Link to this post